Home and Dry and Optimistic: My 2020 travel review
“A good traveller was the traveller who stayed home. ” This or similar is the tenor of many travel bloggers I follow. I agree. My 2020 travel review seems a bit out of time. At some point I wondered whether I should bother writing my 2020 travel review at all.
This was not a year for hopping on flights, changing accommodations and taking as many trips as you could possibly fit in. Whether international travel or staying in your country of residence, any movement form your home would carry the risk of picking up and transmitting the virus.
So, like many, I stayed mostly at home this year.
And when I say my first trip of 2020 was a somewhat eerie preview of things to come, will you believe me?
My 2020 Travel Review in Short
January: a wonderful Jordan trip with a dark foreboding
Normally January always sucks – the holidays are over, I’m a bit broke and it is still dark. In my 2020 travel review, January has a special significance as this was the last trip unaffected by COVID-19. So, in 2020, I was going to do it all differently and booked an incredibly cheap flight to Aqaba in Jordan. Did I get some dark premonition when a fellow passenger on the flight to Aqaba suffered a cardiac arrest and we did a very fast very urgent landing in Antalya while I was crouched on the floor, trying to bring the passenger back to life? Did I feel impending doom and gloom when a Chinese American student I met in Wadi Rum said he does feel worried about the virus from Wuhan and that people were already looking at him strangely?
Nope. The passenger survived, and I told my travel mate that it will probably be like SARS 1.0 and soon under control. Travelling through Jordan on my own using public transport was wonderful, and I thought Jordan was the best winter destination ever despite the somewhat temperamental weather. I based myself in Amman for two days, then ventured into the Eastern Desert, viewed the mosaics of Madaba then visited Petra, finishing off with two days in Aqaba. As usual, I checked out the local shops mostly on the beauty and foodie side.
I made a bunch of friends sitting stranded in Antalya for about twelve hours until Easyjet sent a plane from Gatwick to transport us to Aqaba. While I went on a whirlwind tour of Jordan, seeing as much as possible, my friends concentrated on Petra and Wadi Rum and came back with some amazing tales. I met some of them in Petra, and while they were quite the hikers (but I am not), they continued to explore Petra on foot while I hurried to Aqaba and buddied up with two other solo travellers to hite a jeep for a Day Trip to Wadi Rum.
February: The month of the flu
Barely back from Jordan, I was hit by a strange flu-like illness that really took me out for a week. Early on, I hoped I might be done and dusted with COVID-19, but that wasn’t the case. As the virus spread mostly in the Far East and we questioned anyone with flu-like symptoms whether they had any contact with China travellers, little did we know that not China, but Europe would soon be a hot spot.
I tried to content myself with some lovely plans of a trip to the West Bank – tightly knit, as Israel is a bit expensive. So a few nights in Jerusalem, staying at a pilgrims hostel, the plan was to take day trips to Nablus and Hebron and dedicate more time to some religious sites of Jerusalem, followed by a feast in Tel Aviv. All very well, except five days before I was due to travel, Israel closed its borders to tourists as one of the first countries – quite rightly so.
March: Getting used to a new reality
We had a trip for a family reunion booked for early March. If Morrissey was still going to play in London in early MArch, how bad could it really be? When my husband backed out of the family reunion, I harboured thoughts of going on my own and seeing Morrissey instead for about 24 hours. But it didn’t feel right, and a tightly packed gig had all the qualities of a superspreader event, so I cancelled, too.
Soon after, we realised that sending people with flu symptoms away was not going to be sustainable patient management, and work entrusted me with setting up a testing facility because, quite honestly, the regular clinics did thin out a bit, plus, the hot site would have enough personal protective equipment. I was dead scared, but I kind of had signed up for this job, so the next three months became very, very busy and I spent long days working, then falling into bed exhausted at 6pm.
April: Still excessively busy to think about travel
And that can be pretty much said for April. We had a national lockdown with schools and shops closed until 20 April. Deep down, I was worried we might end up with Bergamo-like scenarios but the strict lockdown ultimately led to a steady reduction in infections. We didn’t but Germany collectively stayed put in April and so did I except working a lot.
May: Holidaying at home but here’s hope
After Israel and the Palestinaian Territories and London, I cancelled my third trip of the year with a heavy heart. After not seeing my parents in law in Marchm we had to cancel the second trip too due to a worldwide travel warning still in place, quarantine rules and our flights to Toulouse being cancelled.
I spent a week at home doing not very much after an incredibly busy March and April, tended the garden and did some very careful optimisations on this blog. While travel blog traffic generally tanked this year, I was astonished to see my blog traffic rising. But in all honestly, I did slip in a few off topic posts about making hand sanitizer and cold-process soap, trying different protective face mask patterns and cooking healthy food with minimal ingredients when all you do it do groceries once a week.
June: Cautiously travelling again – for work
A course I had booked for a long time was actually going ahead. I rarely dirve long distnaces, preferrring public transport instead, but this time I drive eight hours to get to a Protestant conference facility oin teh woods. I fled a day after, this being a bit too locked in for me, and experiencing tentative re-uptake of national tourism.
About two days after the hotels reopened, I went on my long-planned acupuncture course. I actually had quite a good time, revelling in being able to travel at least a little bit again. Besides, acupuncture is a fascinating subject to study. I broke the long drive by revisiting the freshly restored Margravian Opera House in Bayreuth on an almost private tour.
July: All change to doom and gloom (but we could travel and didnt)
July was by far the worst month in this year, and logically my 2020 travel review. It kicked off with me being mugged right outside my house and continued with the sudden death of a close friend. While away on yet another work trip, I frantically tried to locate my friends next of kind, and once I had done that, started to organise a funeral service in a still very much locked down England.
Before all this happened, I had booked myself a few days off and a train ticket to Amsterdam. A few days before I was due to travel, the sadness from my friends death and feeling scared outside my home took their toll and I cancelled the Amsterdam trip. Also, experiencing four train journey where mask-free people packed like sardines had sucked all the fun out of train travel for the time being.
he incident outside my house, though nothing to do with this blog, reverberated through the remaining year, and still does, to some extent. It is also a reason why I’ve become extremely cautious with publishing any much personal infirmation here and signed up to an authors service. Basically, I was accused of breaking the law by photographing someone damaging the road outside our property, and had my camera violently taken from me and while not receiving death threats, the verbal threats and the thugs knowing where I live scared the living daylights out of me.
While I was too anxious to go anywhere on my first trip to Nuremberg, on the second one, although incredibly sad, I went on a few long walks in town before unsocially shutting myself away in my room talking to my nearest and dearest. I did, however, check out a couple of fabric shops in Nuremberg and wrote a post about fabric shopping, which has done suprisingly well.
August: London in mourning and sunnier days in Southern France
Early August saw me take my first flight in over six months and as this would have normally caused some excitement, I was alone, upset and sad as I travelled to my friends funeral service in London.
I took the bus into the centre where all was decked out in flags and banners thanking the NHS, shops and restaurants open but suspiciously empty, while previously populated areas of West London were quiet. The day after the funeral, I took a long walk from my breakfast at the Lisboa Patisserie, where we sat like chickens in a coop, back to my hotel in Shepherds Bush. The streets were really quiet, sad and empty which strangely fitted my mournful mood.
With this experience still fresh, I asked we see my husbands family despite rising infection numbers in Southern France. At that stage I believed a second wave is imminent and more travel restrictions would come. I hated the trip but loved being in the French countryside where the virus was almost gone. Four flights and six hours of layover on what is normally a straight 2.5hour cheapo Ryanair flight as well as an unplanned overnight stay in Toulouse made for a somewhat uncomfortable travel experience, but seeing the in-laws after over a year was obviously the best about this trip. Tasting organic wine right outside their doorstep, admiting thebeautiful Aubrac Plateau and finally visiting Conques Abbey come a close second, though.
September: The Japan trip that… became a Sicily island hopping
The summer really passed in a blur of sadness and anxiety. Things were looking up again a few weeks after I sought appropriate help and strangely, started working more. This really made me think how I must have ticked the past decades, that I only really like myself if I have a big enough income or are valued by others. I am still working through that, and it’s been a real eye opener.
Out of the three weeks holiday I had, we spent one week in Sicily then self-isolated for most of the rest.
October: Gripped by fear and two cancelled trips
We returned from Sicily with sniffle and self-isolated for days. I mean, isolated inside our house. It was strange. I rolled out a futon in my study and slept there, serving my decidedly sicker husband lovingly cooked meals and hot tea at arms length.
I did have a ticket to Milan and a trip planned to Vicenza and the Palladian villas along the Brenta Canal, finishing in Venice, but with us both being sick, I felt increasingly anxious about being away from home being not 100% fit and a potential vector, and with more European regions being declared risk areas.
Also, my late ex-boyfriends sister suggested we all meet up to scatter the ashes and have a couple of drinks. A few days before I was due to fly, London was moved into a more restricted tier so that was the end of that. However, British Airways was incredibly good about changing flights to a later date, with a functioning website that made changing these flights quite easy. I think I paid an extra 20 Euros for the privilege.
November: The second wave upon us
We could watch all Summer and autumn how cases crept up in Germany, but not much happened other than more travel restrictions once the school holidays were over. I am still baffled on how our government spectacularly failed to put any meaningful prevention measures in place. The COVID warning app? Lacks updates and fewer people trust it. Attracting more medical professionals? No way – more left during this year because working conditions have become unbearable. Vaccine? in the pipeline but Germany bought nowhere enough doses of a vaccine that was actually developed in Germany even when they were offered more doses. Oh well. Grossly disillusioned, it was working in the private healthcare sector (accessible to everyone, though, Germany system) might have been a rather good decision.
Apart from that, I had entertained the idea of a little little trip to Istanbul to go shopping, eating and admire some mosques and churches, but it obvioisly wasn’t gonna happen.
December Hope in sight or all dark for 2021?
After a pretty half-assed “Lockdown Light” infection numbers rose and travel was out of the question. I had taken on extra work again and didn’t think of travel much. Occasionally, I watched a travel documentary and contemplated whether to go see my mum for Christmas in the neighbouring state. As I have to submit my leave requests in November, I booked some time off in March to go to London. Other than that?
My wish list of trips remains – taking that trip to Japan. Damn! We should have tackled the extra expense and gone on our honeymoon. Thailand. An interesting city, probably in Italy. Georgia again. Will it happen? I don’t know and remain hopefully doubtful.
So… will we travel again in the New Year?
Fact is that mass vaccinations are happening worldwide but I am unsure about its immediate impact on travel.
The vaccination protects from getting severe illness, but so far there has been no evidence that it protects from transmission. So… we can still get it and pass it on, and I cannot imagine that travel restrictions will loosen unless at least 60% of the population has been effectively vaccinated. We have been offered to be vaccinated, but I am still in two minds about it. I have plenty vaccination duties lined up so I can read more about it and decide. On the other hand, while I firmly believe those over 80 should be vaccinated first, making frontline workers, especially those in healthcare with high risk contact to COVID-19 a secondary priority, really sends the wrong signals.
I try to be cautiously optimistic. 2020 was definitely a year for as little travel as possible, so 2021 can only get better.
I hope you enjoyed reading my 2020 travel review. Did you travel this year, and have you got ttravel plans for the New Year?